Mbale Residents Shocked by Sale of Popular Park

1051 Views Mbale, Uganda
Residents of Mbale yesterday woke up to the strange sight of anti-riot police supervising the fencing off of a green space in the middle of their town. The 'Friends of Nature' park is one of just a handful of green spaces in Mbale's central business district. It is a popular spot for residents who spend hours talking to friends, playing with their children and picnicking in it. Mansa Musa, LC3 chairperson of Mbale Industrial Division, says he is surprised that the area was fenced off without his notice. He claims he was granted permission by the Municipal Council to manage the park until 2013. Musa says he spent 20 million shillings beautifying the area and is demanding answers to explain what is going on. There are reports that the Municipal Council sold the park for 350 million shillings to a private developer. The company, Keep Mbale Clean Limited, intends to construct a multi-billion shilling shopping mall in the area. The company is listed as a service provider with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority. It is involved in cleaning and compound maintenance, garbage collection, furniture repair and property management. In 2006 Keep Mbale Clean Limited came to the light when it was implicated in a fraudulent street cleaning deal made with the former Industrial Division health inspector, Marsurub Wanzusi. The Mbale Town Clerk, Norbert Turyahikayo, was unavailable to comment on the sale of the Friends of Nature park and its connection with Keep Mbale Clean Limited. A number of traders operating makeshift restaurants at the park want to know who to turn to for compensation for the loss of their businesses. Abdul Kadir Sseka says he was never notified about the sale. He says all the food he purchased for his restaurant was locked up in the park and he has no way of retrieving it. Rukia Nakalembe, another restaurateur, says she had just paid 250,000 shillings to rent a shack in the park. She says she borrowed the money from a microfinance company and with her only source of income stripped away, she is at a loss on what to do. ###